by Tamir Wright | Staff Writer
Election season in New Orleans is in full swing one week out from the start of early voting, as dozens of candidates vying for positions in local, municipal, and statewide races. Among the many candidates across the ballots, voters will be electing the candidates for the office of mayor, city council, state representative, and sheriff.
The upcoming mayoral race will have incumbent Mayor Latoya Cantrell seek to become the first woman to be re-elected to this position in the city’s history. Cantrell is running against a slate of 10 candidates: Belden ‘Noonie Ma’ Batiste, Douglas Bently I, Manuel ‘Chevrolet’ Bruno, Luke Fontana, Leilani Heno, Matthew Hill, Nathaniel ‘Nate’ Jones, Reginald Merchant, and Vina Nguyen. Mayor Cantrell is also the only candidate in this race who has been elected previously to an office in New Orleans.
“Now is not the time to change leadership. Now is the time to stay focused and work on diversifying our economy,” Cantrell said on Oct. 9 at a campaign event. The current mayor holds an approval rating of 62 percent since the last New Orleans Crime Commission poll in July. However, due to Hurricane Ida, another poll has not been completed, but experts say that Mayor Cantrell’s approval rating has taken a slight hit in the aftermath of the hurricane.
Cantrell said she hopes to use her second term to focus on developing the downtown area and New Orleans East, improving public transportation, and making changes to city government and contracting.
In addition to the New Orleans mayoral race, seven New Orleans City Council seats are up for election. District seats A, B, C, D, E, and at large Division seats 1 and 2. There is a state representative seat up for grabs in the 102nd District with Delisha Boyd running unopposed. The sheriff’s office features 4 candidates: incumbent Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Quentin R. Brown Jr, Christopher Williams, and Susan Hutson.
Early voting for the primary election begins on Oct. 30 and ends on Nov. 6. Primary election day is scheduled for Nov. 13. The second early voting period will begin again on Nov. 27 to Dec. 4, with the general election day being held on Dec. 11. Gov. John Bel Edwards previously signed an executive order that delayed the fall elections in Louisiana due to Hurricane Ida damage.
“Holding the elections as currently scheduled would impair the integrity of those elections, based on numerous issues related to displaced voters and election day personnel as well as extensive power outages and damage to early-voting and election day polling places,” Edwards said at a press conference on Sept. 9 at his Baton Rouge office.
Anybody who is registered to vote in Louisiana can vote early in elections. Voters can cast their ballots at their designated polling location. Polling locations are open from 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. each day of the early voting season. When residents go to vote early, they should bring photo identification or signature on a voter affidavit. Masks are required in all polling locations along with COVID-19 social distancing protocols.
Louisiana elections use the majority vote system. All candidates will compete in the same primary, and a candidate can only win the election by receiving more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary. If no candidate reaches the 50 percent threshold, the top two vote candidates from the Nov. 13 primary will advance to the general election being held on Dec. 11.
Voters will be making their decisions based on a multitude of issues currently impacting the city. Crime is one issue on the minds of many New Orleans residents as public safety continues to be of concern to the quality of life in the city.
“Me and my family deserve to feel protected,” Gentilly resident Cairon Becnel said. “The carjackings have to stop. The shootings have to stop. Please, we all have people we are trying to protect. We need to do better as a community and we need to find a leader that will do their job,” he added.
Several major candidates have outlined plans for fixing the crime problem in New Orleans. Some candidates are running on a platform of improving public safety in the city.
Mayor candidate Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste said he would bring back community policing while also raising pay for officers and firefighters. The police force in New Orleans is understaffed, Batiste said at campaign events. He suggests putting sheriff’s office deputies onto patrol. Another mayoral candidate, Joseph Amato, stated in his campaign platform that he would like to solve crime by directing the police to focus on crimes of aggression and violence.
“I love New Orleans,” Becnel added, “But, I don’t really know how much longer I can stay here. In these conditions. I’ve lived here all my life and I swear crime ain’t never been this bad ever. I want to stay, I really do, but at the end of the day I have to protect my family the best I can. I want a mayor that will work in the interest of us regular people and not businesses,” he said.